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Considerations for the First Page of Your Novel

I hope you know why it’s so important to craft a terrific first page. Surely if your first page is awful, it’s likely your reader won’t read further. And that’s a bad thing.

When we realize that literary agents often won’t read beyond the first paragraph if it doesn’t spark interest, it puts a lot of pressure on us writers to come up with a stellar first page.

But it doesn’t and can’t stop there. A great first page is not going to make up for the next three hundred blah pages.

While there is a ton to learn about scene and novel structure (and my blog contains something like a million words of instruction on those topics, so dig in!), there are some key lessons to learn about fiction writing from focusing on the first page.

Why? Because the elements on a first page should (and usually do) reflect the quality of writing in the rest of a novel. In other words, you can’t just work hard to make that first page sing and then ignore the rest of your manuscript.  Continue Reading…

The Crucial First Page of Your Novel

My latest craft book in The Writer’s Toolbox series just released. Here is a preview excerpt from First Pages of Best Sellers: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why:

Most authors know that the first pages of a novel are the most crucial and carry the weightiest burden in their entire book. The opening scene must convey so many things that often the author will have to rewrite it numerous times to get it right.

But the first page is especially crucial to get right.

Why? Because if readers don’t get engaged in the story right away, they’ll stop reading. I’ve heard literary agents say that if the first paragraph doesn’t grab them, they move on to the next submission. That puts a tremendous burden on writers to bring their best effort to the table.

When you’re a best-selling author with a following, your fans might be forgiving enough to bear with you through some slow or less-than-masterful pages to see how your novel unfolds. And we’ll see a number of first pages by best-selling authors that appear to be carelessly thrown together, perhaps based on that confidence that their loyal readers will be lenient with their judgement. Continue Reading…

Wrapping Up Our Look at Best Seller First Pages

Sadly, I’m bringing this look at first pages to an end—at least for now. It’s been an intriguing journey looking into these twenty-six first pages of best sellers. Along with many readers of this blog, I was also surprised to see quite a few of the traditional “rules” of good scene structure broken—especially by highly successful authors.

Here are some of the observations I made, shared by numerous commenters. And I’ll reiterate a few salient points that I feel bear repeating about strong openings.

What’s a Super Author Required to Do?

First off—just because a super-author like Stephen King or John Grisham can get away with writing a boring first page featuring a blah character, that doesn’t mean other authors should copy them.

Whether such authors don’t bother or care to work harder to craft a great opening, or they’re way too busy signing books for adoring fans around the world, or they’re under too much deadline pressure, there’s no way to really know. Continue Reading…

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